Professor Michael Sankey


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Design heuristics for flipped classrooms: When using visualisations RSS

Compiled by Associate Professor Michael Sankey - University of Southern Queensland.

Multimodal Design Heuristic 1

“Less is more”. Lean, précised text gets the point across better than lengthy elaborated text (particularly in PowerPoint presentations). Students should not have to read large amounts of information from the screen. If extensive reading is required, make this available in a form that does not need to be read on screen, i.e. in an additional printable document.

Multimodal Design Heuristic 2

Incorporate images only where they tell a story, providing the learner a reference point, or anchor for the information being transmitted. Do not use images for images’ sake. Pedagogical benefit must be present for their use.

Multimodal Design Heuristic 3

Avoid including additional music or sounds with visuals, unless these are an essential component of the learning interaction, as this can add extra cognitive load for no reason.

Multimodal Design Heuristic 4

Provide the learner with some control over the learning environment, ensuring the instructional strategy is made clear. In doing so, have a rich set of resources available (as an option) to help the learner make decisions. When providing these alternative representations, allow ample opportunity for learners to make decisions as to how to access these materials.

Multimodal Design Heuristic 5

When creating animation, use image and spoken text. The two sources of information can then be processed concurrently in working memory. If text has to be used with spoken text, keep it simple, preferably in dot point form only.

Multimodal Design Heuristic 6

When using animation, allow access to an alternate version of the material, thereby catering for those learners who prefer to read instruction rather than view or listen. This is useful for learners with extensive prior knowledge who may choose not to access the further information.

Multimodal Design Heuristic 7

Build knowledge gradually with stepwise segments of information (sequentially), not in one long presentation. The e-learning environment is especially useful to learners when information is presented in smaller “chunks” to hold interest. Where this includes audio components presentations should not exceed 12 minutes, 7 is ideal.

Multimodal Design Heuristic 8

Ensure that background image or colour does not interfere with the clarity of information presented in the foreground. Use contracting colours; light on dark, dark on light; as against complimentary colours. Use variations in colour or intensity to highlight important information.

Multimodal Design Heuristic 9

Use simple graphics initially where possible, then add to complexity as the learning sequence progresses. Scaffold visual learning where appropriate, by building an illustration sequentially with animation or by a series of still images.

Multimodal Design Heuristic 10

Prevent the need for visual search, that is, make it obvious where to find certain elements by placing all related information together. Learners will then not have to hunt for this information. For example, pictures and text should be presented together on the screen, (simultaneously), rather than separately. The two representations can then be processed in working memory concurrently. Use captioned images or incorporate the text into the image, where appropriate. Avoid referring to an image or diagram that appears on another page or screen unless it is hyperlinked.

Multimodal Design Heuristic 11

The presence of additional multimedia enhancements should be made explicit by the use of markers or easily recognisable icons. Clear instruction should be given on how to use these elements for maximum benefit. It should be clearly indicated whether these elements are an alternative representation or stand-alone.

Multimodal Design Heuristic 12

The use of video may be preferred for a lecture style presentation. However, if the speaker is not confident in front of a camera only audio should be used. If only audio is used this should be made lively. This may be achieved by the use of vibrant voice, or multiple voices. More visual material should also be integrated into this style of presentation to reinforce concepts and allow students to concentrate on something that complements the voice.

Multimodal Design Heuristic 13

Information expressed through, or supported by, human gesture, that is complimented by speech, help students integrate their knowledge based on observational cues based in familiarity.

Multimodal Design Heuristic 14

The use of alternate printable resources is important, particularly for mature age students and those with a read/write learning preference. Make printable materials easy to access and give clear guidance as to what these materials contain.

Multimodal Design Heuristic 15

If extra elements such as formative quizzes are used, these should be incorporated and contextualised within the environment, rather than requiring students to link to an external learning environment. Programmed feedback should also be provided with formative quizzes.

Multimodal Design Heuristic 16

If audio and video components are used, transcripts of the text should be made available, if subsequent content does not replicate the audio content. This will allow students to highlight and make notes on a printed copy, if required. This transcript does not necessarily need to be word-for-word, but must contain all the key elements of the audio content and appear in the same sequence.


  • Ayres, P. (2015). State-of-the-Art Research into Multimedia Learning: A Commentary on Mayer’s Handbook of Multimedia Learning. Applied Cognitive Psychology. 29: pp. 631–636 DOI: 10.1002/acp.3142
  • Fiorella, L., & Mayer, R. E. (2015, August 17). Effects of Observing the Instructor Draw Diagrams on Learning From Multimedia Messages. Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication.
  • Kouyoumdjian, H. (2012) Learning Through Visuals: Visual imagery in the classroom. Psychology Today. Posted Jul 20,
  • Mayer, R. E. (2014). The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning (2nd edn). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
  • Paas, F., & Sweller, J. (2012) An Evolutionary Upgrade of Cognitive Load Theory: Using the Human Motor System and Collaboration to Support the Learning of Complex Cognitive Tasks.  Educational Psychology Review. Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 27-45
  • Pink, D.H. (2012) The Flip Manifesto. The essential Principle. Retrieved July 12, 2013 from
  • Sankey, M.D, & Hunt, L. (2013). Using technology to enable flipped classrooms whilst sustaining sound pedagogy. In H. Carter, M. Gosper and J. Hedberg (Eds.), Electric Dreams. Proceedings ascilite 2013 Sydney. pp.785-795.

Wordpress Blog RSS

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Last updated on 24 August 2019, 2:00 PM

A USQ Case Study RSS

By Michael Sankey and Teresa Brady

The University of Southern Queensland (USQ) has been using Mahara for just on four years. We started rather small to test the waters, but now have some 14 450+ users. Both staff and students use it, and as you could imagine, these groups are quite different. What is common, however, is that it’s used for evidencing an individual’s good practice.

Whether it’s demonstrating professional skills, building towards a profession, or building a professional profile, we seem to have it all. For example, all of our first year nursing students use it to collate and provide evidence of the skills they have learned during their Course. All Education students use it, again to build up and display evidence that will one day be presented to potential employers. Many of our staff use ePortfolio to collect evidence that may be used for academic promotion (private) or to provide a professional public profile, for example:

As an institution, we are developing an increasing amount of resources to support both students and staff in their use of this tool and we provide significant support to our staff wanting to use it within their Courses. One of our performing arts lecturers, who uses it extensively in her course, states: “I wish I had it while I was studying because to me it is just the perfect way for someone who is engaged in practice to really track their progress”.


USQ Learning Technologies Update RSS

This Journal will discuss issues related to current and emerging learning technologies used by USQ

The future of ePortfolios at USQ

As USQ looks to implement Mahara 1.5 for Semester 3 this year we will start to experience a greater level of functionality within this ePortfolio system. We will then be extending this functionality further by Semester s 2013 when we implement the Mahoodle plug in. This plugin with allow for seamless integration between Moodle and Mahara, providing ePortfolio as an embedded activity within the USQStudyDesk. This is an exciting step forward and is all part of the vision for a more integrated USQStudyDesk experience for our staff and students.


My Twitter feed RSS

Last updated on 24 August 2019, 2:01 PM


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